The Pseudoscience Quiz

By: Patrick J. Kiger
Image: Science Picture Go

About This Quiz

Everyone says it so it must be true, right? We have an astonishing capacity to accept scientific-sounding concepts that are false. Can you differentiate between what's real science and what's gobbledygook?

True or false: A gluten-free diet is more nutritious.

Actually, gluten-free foods often contain a lot of sugar and few nutrients.

True or false: You lose most of your body heat through your head.

Actually, you lose just as much heat per square inch through your head as you do through the rest of your body.

Your intelligence is a factor of brain weight.

Intelligence is unrelated to the relative size of a person's brain.

True or false: Non-avian dinosaurs and humans lived on Earth at the same time.

The fossil record shows a gap of about 65 million years between the last non-dinosaurs and the <i>Homo</i> genus to which humans belong. Avian dinosaurs (aka birds) and humans live alongside one another.

Does lightning ever strike in the same place twice?

Lightning often repeatedly strikes the same high trees or buildings, sometimes in the course of a single storm.

As Christopher Columbus left to sail the ocean blue, did everyone believe the world was flat?

From at least the 6th century BCE, mathematicians such as Pythagoras in Greece had determined that the world was round. Educated people in Columbus' own time were aware that the world was round. Proving that the world was round was definitely not one of the purposes of Columbus' voyages.

What color is the blood inside your veins?

Just as outside your body, your blood is red inside it too. The veins look blue because subcutaneous fat allows only blue light to penetrate skin as far as the veins.

Did humans evolve from the ape species we have today?

Humans and modern apes both evolved from a common ancestor, but people did not evolve from the ape species we have today.

Can brain cells regenerate?

Despite the common belief that brain cells are irreplaceable, a 1999 study showed that the brain actually can create new cells.

What is the difference between a hypothesis and a theory?

Hypotheses are testable statements that offer a potential answer to a question, and they can be examined through the scientific method. Theories have been tested, and can incorporate hypotheses that have been proven to be true.

True or false: If an experiment has an error in it, that means it's worthless.

In science, an experimental error isn't necessarily synonymous with a mistake. For example, the term could refer to a statistical or systematic error. If that's the case, scientists can account for the error when they write up the results.

Is the Great Wall of China visible from space?

According to NASA's Website, other man-made objects such city lights often are visible from space, but the Great Wall usually isn't.

If a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building hit a person on the ground, what would happen?

A penny would not seriously injure a person on the ground, due to its small mass and inability to pick up great speed, but it would hurt to be hit by one.

True or false: Astronauts are weightless when they orbit Earth.

Actually, at 250 miles above Earth, gravity is only reduced by 10 percent. When astronauts appear to float in orbit, they're actually falling, but they're moving too fast sideways to land.

After hair is shaved, what happens when it grows back?

Studies show that shaving or cutting hair doesn't affect either its thickness or its rate of growth.

When a tornado is coming, what should you do to your house?

In a tornado, opening the windows actually makes the inside of the house more vulnerable to the wind's force. So keep them closed and run for cover.

Was the ancient Maya civilization destroyed by climate change?

There is evidence that climate change helped to cause the decline of Maya civilization, but it wasn't the only factor. Overpopulation and constant warfare played their parts, too.

What is the Many Worlds Interpretation?

The Many Worlds Interpretation, a hypothesis developed by theoretical physicist Hugh Everett in the 1950s, offers the idea of multiple universes to reconcile conflicts between quantum physics and observable phenomena.

True or false: Humans burning fossil fuels doesn’t actually increase the amount of carbon on Earth.

Burning fossil fuels puts more carbon in the atmosphere, but the total amount on Earth remains the same.

When plastic trash is thrown into the ocean, what happens to it?

Plastic refuse becomes part of giant floating garbage "gyres" in the ocean.

If you're standing at the equator, do you move faster or slower than someone to the north or south?

The Earth's spin is fastest at the equator, so you move with it fastest there.

What influences the direction of a toilet flushing?

The Earth's spin influences the directions of things like huge weather systems. But when it comes to something as little as a toilet, the toilet itself gets the credit.

Stars twinkle because:

As light from a star moves through the Earth's atmosphere, it travels through turbulence. We interpret this as twinkling.

What percent of your brain do you actually use?

Humans use virtually every part of their brain, and most of it is continually active.

What color is your brain?

While people often refer to our brains as "gray matter," there actually are gray, white, black and red areas and structures in the brain, at least while a person is alive.

What is the brightest star in the sky?

People think it's Polaris (the North Star), but Sirius (the Dog Star) actually is the brightest.

What causes the seasons?

The earth's axial tilt causes the change of seasons.

True or false: A scientific theory is really just speculation without hard evidence.

That's what the word "theory" might mean to a layperson. But to scientists, a theory generally is an explanation for something that's backed by evidence and can be used to make accurate predictions. For instance, the theory of gravity.

Diamonds are formed from what substance?

Diamonds form deep in the Earth from a pure form of carbon called graphite.

Antarctica's ice sheet is changing in what way?

The Antarctic ice cover is 18 percent thinner than it was in the 1990s.

True or false: The Moon has a dark side.

The far side of the Moon actually receives as much light as the part we can see.

Should you throw away food that you drop on the floor?

A 2012 British study revealed that little or no bacteria survived on the surfaces of foods with a high sugar or salt content when they were dropped on the floor.

True or false: Scientists have proven that childhood vaccines cause autism.

There is no proven link between vaccines and autism. A 1990s study published in the British medical journal The Lancet, which purported to show such a link, was later found to be false and deceptive, and it was retracted by the publication.

True or false: The hole in the ozone and global warming are two completely different things.

Although there are some connections between the hole in the ozone and global warming, these are two completely different things ... and neither of them is the primary cause of the other.

In a fusion reaction, what do hydrogen atoms combine to form?

In nuclear fusion, four hydrogen atoms combine to form helium.

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